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Greta Hits the Campaign Trail With Mitt Romney

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," December 4, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Just hours ago, we were in New Hampshire with former governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney. He is running for president and he wants you to hear what he has to say.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, nice to see you.

MITT ROMNEY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Greta. Good to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: I assume, Governor, you saw yesterday that the National Intelligence Estimate, that with Iran, that we have discovered that four years ago, they stopped their nuclear weapons program, and we thought that they had not stopped it, a flaw in our intelligence gathering.

ROMNEY: Well, that's happened before. But it's good news, of course, that apparently, their weapons activity has been put on hold, although they continue to enrich uranium, which, of course, can be used in a weapons program, ultimately. What it suggests in the estimate is that the efforts on the part of the U.S. and other nations to impose sanctions for their nuclear ambition has had an impact. And you certainly hope so because you want to make sure that our efforts are able to dissuade a nation from seeking nuclear weaponry.

VAN SUSTEREN: Bigger picture: we have had intelligence flaws before in the run up to war in Iraq. Greatly exaggerated, though, it is thought, there's weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We had a problem with the state of the union in 2003 when the president mentioned that Saddam Hussein was trying to get yellow cake. What would the Romney administration do so that we stop having these very serious intelligent flaws?

ROMNEY: Well, during the Clinton years, we took what Charles Krauthammer called "a holiday from history" and we assumed there was no more evil in the world. We cut back dramatically our personal intelligence capacity. We said we will listen in to phone calls, if you will. And, that has proven to be inadequate. We are going to have to rebuild our personal, our human intelligence capacity. And, of course, even with that being rebuilt, there will always be gaps and flaws. You can't know everything that is going on in everyone else's mind around the world. They do their best to hide those things from us. And, particularly in some of the Islamic nations, we have very limited capacity.

It will take us a long time to build that and there will be errors from time to time. Nonetheless, you want to listen to people who have alternative views, hear the pros and cons, upsides, downsides, and recognize that we will not always have perfect information. But, of course, we always can deal with people across the table. And they can open up their programs and let us inspect or let the IAEA or other agencies inspect to determine what is going on. So a nation doesn't have to wonder whether they might be falsely accused. They can always show that they, in fact, are abiding by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, our economy. The Iraq war has cost us an awful lot of money. We have a huge deficit. You are a wealthy man. I'm very lucky with my job — I get paid a handsome salary. Why do you and I need, why do we need to have tax cuts prolonged for us, for the two of us?

ROMNEY: It's not that individuals with high incomes need tax cuts. It's that we need our economy to grow. And growing our economy means allowing individuals, and particularly those in the middle class, to be able to keep more of their money. It also means that people in the middle class and modest incomes to be able to pay for their retirement, to get a down payment for a home, to send a child to college. You don't want to have government taking more and more of their money. You want to keep their tax burden down and that grows the economy and also allows people of modest and middle incomes to have a brighter future.

VAN SUSTEREN: Immigration. I get gazillion e-mails from people. Immigration is probably the top issue. What's your plan for immigration?

ROMNEY: Well, first, you secure the border. And, second, as part of that effort to stop illegal immigration, you give people who come here legally a card which identifies their legal status and their work status. And you say to employers, "If you want to hire someone that's not a U. S. citizen with a valid social security number, you ask for that card. If they don't have one, you can't hire them. If you hire them anyway, you are going to get sanctioned just like you do for not paying your taxes."

VAN SUSTEREN: Sanctioned or you are going to get prosecuted?

ROMNEY: Sanctioned — you get fines and you get larger and larger fines. At some point, if somebody were severely derelict, you would look for tougher and tougher sanctions.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why not if they violate the law, go after them?

ROMNEY: That is what you do. Just like when people don't get their taxes quite right, first of all, you charge them penalties and fees and so forth. If they turn out to be a real scofflaw, the penalties get tougher and tougher. The key thing for me is you have a identification system that shows employers or potential employers who is here legally and who is not. You do those two things: secure the border and have that kind of employment verification system, and you will stop the flow of illegal aliens into this country. Because, if they can't get work here, they won't come here.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you distinguish between changing your mind or evolving and flip-flop? If you are the nominee — they are going to replay that Kennedy debate today that you had in 1994 on abortion. You have, your position has changed.

ROMNEY: Yes, um-huh.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do we know that it's not a flip-flop and that it's something different?

ROMNEY: Well, you can look at my record. The good news is I was governor for four years. And it's been a long time since I debated Ted Kennedy. When I became governor, the first time a bill came to my desk that related to life and the preservation of the sanctity of life, I came down on the side of life. And I wrote an article in the paper and said I am pro-life and here is why. Every bill that came to my desk that related to this issue, I came down on the side of life. So, I have a record. The Massachusetts Citizens for Life awarded me their leadership award. So, it's not just a question of what I am saying now that I am running for president. You can look at what I did when I was governor.

VAN SUSTEREN: What someone could have said when you did that as governor you flip-flopped from what you promised in the debate. Because, in the debate, you are quite adamant in saying you are going to protect every woman's right to choose.

ROMNEY: I'm not going to tell you that I have never changed my mind in my life. If people are looking for someone who has never changed their mind and is unwilling to admit they make mistakes, that's not me. I have seen a lot of people, by the way, who were pro-life become pro-choice. No one seems to have any difficulty with that at all. That's easily accepted. But, if you are pro-choice and you become pro-life, there are a lot of folks, particularly in the media, who find that unacceptable.

VAN SUSTEREN: Has any of this process — political process — hurt you? Hurt your feelings?

ROMNEY: No.

VAN SUSTEREN: Not at all?

ROMNEY: No.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about your family?

ROMNEY: You know, we grew up with it. We watched my Dad in the 1960s run for governor three times in a very Democratic state and then run for president. And he didn't win in the race for president. We also campaigned for my Mom. She ran for senate. She didn't win. And, if you want to serve the country, you recognize it's rough and tumble. And it's nothing like serving your country in the military. There are 160,000 of our men and women in Iraq that wonder whether there is going to be a hand grenade or a missile lobbed into where they are sleeping at night. Those are people who make a real sacrifice. And have real reason to worry and be concerned about their well-being. In politics, it's pretty tender compared to what they face day in and day out.

VAN SUSTEREN: You raise the issue of military — you have five sons, none of whom chose to serve. I assume that that's going to be an issue in the campaign. How do you answer that?

ROMNEY: I don't know...

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you going to ask other children to serve?

ROMNEY: I don't think it's likely to be an issue in the campaign. But, I do believe that by virtue of having a volunteer army, you are going to have men and women who decide to serve and others who decide to pursue different careers. My sons are all adults. They are all married. They chose their own course. And that's their right, as it is the right of other children. I would also note this: we respect and honor very deeply those people who decide to serve their country in the military. But we certainly don't denigrate people who choose a different course, particularly when we have an all-volunteer army.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Coming up: more from Governor Mitt Romney. Many are awaiting his big speech this Thursday about his faith and his Mormon religion. But, guess what, you get a sneak peek, first peek. And here's the question: should Romney even have to talk about his religion? You will hear more from him directly in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: More from our sit-down in New Hampshire with presidential hopeful, former Governor Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, I want to ask a question that I think is disappointing that I have to ask. You think that, after 47 years, we wouldn't be asking a candidate this: you are going to give a speech on your faith coming up this week. And most of us thought that that was over with President Kennedy's 1960 speech. But, I understand that you are being sort of pressured to give this by the American voters. What are you going to say and what's your thought?

ROMNEY: Well, it's not so much pressured by others. It's, instead, an opportunity for me. Because I think the role of religion in this country is actually quite significant. It's been part of our nation's heritage. People of different faiths have led our nation. Jefferson was a deist — he didn't believe in any particular denomination that I know of. You've had Quakers, a Catholic, and people of all different faiths. I believe that the faith heritage of this country is actually a very important part of America's culture. So, I will be talking about faith in America and the pluralistic society, the pluralistic faiths which we enjoy. I will, of course, answer the obligatory questions that come from a person of faith like myself. But, stay tuned. You will find it interesting.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you find it — I mean, a little bit appalling that you even — that no one is pushing any other candidate? You say you are not being pushed or pressured but the fact is that you are. We have a first amendment. We have a lot of members of your faith serving government. We have Orrin Hatch — we have Senator Hatch, Senator Bennett. There have been a lot of members of your faith serving the American people, yet, you are being — I mean, people have been asking for this.

ROMNEY: You know, I don't mind that people have questions and would look for someone to respond to their questions, particularly if their faith is not terribly well-known. The focus of what I am going to be talking about is not answering questions about my church. Because, in fact, John F. Kennedy, 47 years ago, really gave the definitive address relating to discrimination in politics based on someone's religion. So, I don't have something to add there. But, I do have some thoughts with regards to faith in our country and the need to preserve the pluralistic, religious heritage of America.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you write the speech yourself?

ROMNEY: I did. I got a lot of input from a number of folks. But, the great majority of the speech is something I wrote. I put it together on Thursday, a week ago. And have been tuning it up bit by bit since then. But, I have a lot of ideas from folks. But, this is my speech and I wrote it.

VAN SUSTEREN: In re-reading President Kennedy's speech the other night, the one he gave in 1960, he said he stands for the separation of church and state. Do you? Or what's the role of the church, if any — or your faith?

ROMNEY: Certainly, no church should be involved in trying to set the affairs of the nation. Of course, any entity can express their views and can lobby. But, you would not find it acceptable in this country to have the faith of a particular candidate or the church of a particular candidate asking him or her to do something. That would be completely out of bounds.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, campaign — having fun?

ROMNEY: It really is something, I tell you. It is a hoot to go all over this country to see people from all different walks of life. A lot of Republicans. A lot of independents and Democrats, too. And, to receive the kind of enthusiastic response that we get, I wish everybody could have this experience because when you are running for president, a lot of people turn up to see you. You have a lot of questions that you get to answer. And you come away with a lot more confidence in the future of this country. We are a good nation with good people with good heart. And we can overcome anything that's thrown up against us.

VAN SUSTEREN: Physically grueling though, isn't it?

ROMNEY: Oh, it's physically grueling. But, you know, at the end of the day after a few speeches and a lot of campaign stops, I'm more energized than drained. I have to read for half an hour or an hour to fall asleep. By the way, thanks to the Gideons for giving me some good material at the end of the day.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you very much, governor. I know you got a busy day. So, I won't keep you any longer. Thank you, sir.

ROMNEY: Thanks, Greta, good to be with you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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